Driving For Dollars


Driving for Dollars

Driveways take up a lot of space in any front garden, so Jim Fogarty says a well-designed driveway can actually add value to your property when you do it well. 

Installing a new driveway can be the biggest investment you will make in a garden. Driveways take up a massive proportion of garden space, and getting the design right will make a significant impact to the value of your property. A driveway can look stately, or it can blend into a natural-styled garden. Whichever way you choose, a driveway needs to be an attractive element in the garden, rather than an enormous eyesore.


Design basics

There are many deciding factors when designing a driveway including slope, water runoff, style, texture, vistas, and heritage appeal. It is wise to start with a plan view of your property and consider how the drive is going to link from the street to your house.

A straight line might be an obvious choice, but on a slope, a curved drive can look smart, and the curve can work with the slope, making the driveway a curious element from the street view. The materials you choose will be reliant on budget, but adding detail to the driveway’s layout will help to make it look more interesting. If you are considering moving your street crossover, you will need to obtain council permits.


Protecting trees

When locating a new drive, consider existing trees and try to locate the drive to protect them, and especially their roots. However, also consider potential damage to the driveway itself caused by the tree roots.

If you choose a fixed surface material such as concrete or paving, you’ll need to excavate as much as 160mm, and this may affect tree roots. Using a gravel or pebble material is a better option as you can alter the heights of the drive slightly so that the gravel is spread over the top of the root zone and no excavation of the roots is required.

A porous material will also benefit the tree by allowing rainwater to soak down into the root zone. If you have any doubts, it is worth seeking advice from a qualified arborist.


Colour options

If you want to combine materials and colour finishes in your drive, one good idea is to identify the main house exterior wall finishes (ie, the dominant colour) and the window and eave colours (ie, the recessive colours). For the driveway, switch the colours around so that the dominant house wall colour becomes the recessive colour finish in your drive. For instance, if your house is red brick with grey trims, use a bluestone drive with red brick trims.



The right paving a drive can transform your property but to do it properly can be expensive. For a driveway, a structural base concrete slab will be required at a thickness of at least 100mm (four inches). Driveway pavers should be laid on a mortar bed for strength. Smaller pavers and bricks are best for drives with slopes and contours, and the smaller pavers are also less prone to cracking. Larger pavers can make a drive look more expansive, but remember that the thicker the paving material the stronger it will be, so choose a thick, large paver if you like that look.



There are many options with concrete paving from coloured concrete, stencilled concrete (to look like faux paving), concrete with saw cuts to mimic grout lines in paving, and exposed aggregate.

Exposed aggregate is a custom concrete mix, washed back to expose the blend of pebbles and stone. Concrete is structurally sound as a drive material but on a large driveway it can look bland. Exposed aggregate can give you the look of a gravel drive, without the mess. To help choose which exposed aggregate surface will work best for a natural setting, take a photo of the existing bare ground, and choose an aggregate mix that is complementary to its colour. Recreating the natural earth look is a great tip when in doubt for driveways on large blocks.


Expansion joints

A solid driveway with a concrete base will expand and contract depending on the moisture content in the concrete. This can cause cracking in your driveway surface, and it’s a common problem. The increase in moisture content of the concrete base creates an earthquake-like response in the pavers above, as they are forced into one another. This causes chipping of the surface, and a large crack with one side of the crack sitting higher than the other.

Cracking in solid driveways is always a problem where there are insufficient crack control joints and expansion joints. Ideally, these should be located every 3m, and in addition, placed at the weakest points, such as corners of houses. Expansion joints should also be placed where a solid drive meets any other solid walls such as a house wall.


Rolled asphalt

For a large block, a rolled asphalt drive can be cost-effective and practical as a driveway surface. The best look is when local crushed stone is rolled into the surface to give a more natural look and to help brighten the dark colour of the asphalt. For more information visit the website at www.bitumenproducts.com.au


Gravel & pebbles

A crunchy driveway creates a relaxing feel in a garden and is a great way to provide some sensory stimulation. The sound can also be a subtle warning when visitors arrive. Gravel is a by-product of stone quarrying and is easy and cheap to spread. There are various options including aggregates such as granite, scoria, quartz and Lilydale Toppings.

Pebbles are smooth and come in a range of sizes. However, some of the pebbles available come from our river systems and streams. The environmental impact of this is a concern so it’s worth asking your local landscape supplier for environmentally safe products.

Some pebbles are created by tumbling quarry waste to create smooth pebble-looking products and this is a smart way to get that pebbly look without damaging our river systems.

Prepare the base surface first by smoothing over and spreading 75mm of crushed rock to provide a firm base. This will help reduce degradation of the gravel surface in heavy rains and assist with keeping weeds at bay. Tip: if you are not sure which surface to choose, a combination of aggregates and man-made pebbles can sometimes provide the answer.